|Sen. John Kerry wants a GAO study of the federal government's compliance with its own minority advertising contracts order.|
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In his role as top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Mr. Kerry on May 15 sent a letter to the GAO requesting detailed information on compliance to Executive Order 13170, signed by former President Clinton, that directs federal departments and agencies to take aggressive action to ensure inclusion of disadvantaged businesses in federal contracting, and to expand opportunities in advertising and other industries.
"It's time we know how the government measures up in meeting its responsibility to reach out to all sectors of the American economy and in keeping its commitment to minority entrepreneurs," Mr. Kerry said in a statement.
Lack of available information
The request followed Mr. Kerry's meeting in March with members of the NNPA, when publishers complained that the government has not adequately complied with the order, said Kathryn Seck, press secretary to the Democratic side of the Senate Small Business committee. She said he asked for the study because of a lack of readily available, detailed information on what is taking place.
"We are suffering because of the retrenchment of advertisers from our publications over the past few years," said Dorothy Leavell, editor and publisher of The Crusader Newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Ind., and a past president of the NNPA. NNPA, also called the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 African-American newspapers across the country. "This executive order was signed several years ago, and the federal government markets to our constituency. We asked him if he might be able to help us get out of our position of stalemate, so to speak," she said.
Of the federal agencies with advertising budgets, Ms. Leavell said she would expect to have ads from the Postal Service, U.S. Army and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
"We asked him to find out how much money is being spent, and where it is being spent," said Mollie Belt, publisher, the Dallas Examiner newspaper, which has a circulation of 10,000.
No advertising increase
W. Reggie Hales, co-publisher of the Inquirer Newspaper Group, which publishes The Inquirer News, a weekly paper for African-Americans living in Connecticut and Springfield, Mass., and has a circulation of about 100,000, said that during his 30 years in business, "I've had four or five ads from the federal government." Even after the order was signed nearly six years ago, advertising did not increase.
Mr. Kerry's letter to the GAO asked that it determine which federal agencies have developed plans to comply with the order and to what extent there were shortfalls in compliance; to find out how many contracts have been awarded to small, disadvantaged businesses, minority enterprises and firms participating in a particular Small Business Administration program affected by the order; and to examine the total amount of federal dollars spent on advertising from 2001 to 2005, and of that, how much went to small and minority businesses.
Peter Mathes, chairman-CEO, Asian Media Group, which operates a TV station in Los Angeles and one in Honolulu, said: "We'd be very interested in hearing what this report uncovers, because we broadcast to all the various Asian populations in Los Angeles and Honolulu every day. We run programming in Chinese, in Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, among others, and up until now we've had very little government advertising."